Ensuring Nigeria’s National Security: The Offer of Assistance by the Soludero Hunters Association of Nigeria

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President Muhammadu Buhari

By Bola A. Akinterinwa

There is no disputing the fact that Nigeria has become a terra cognita for national insecurity in various ramifications, as Nigeria is currently in a junction of insecurity and indecision, especially in terms of how best to deal with the saga, under the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB). The insecurity ranges from threats of Islamisation and Fulanisation of Nigeria to actual manifestations of efforts at dismantlement of Nigeria as presented by the Boko Haramists.

And true enough, the criticality of insecurity in Nigeria has deepened to the extent that the National President of the Soludero Hunters Association of Nigeria (SHAN), Oba Nureni Ajijola-Anabi, has not only promised to put a stop to the ‘unprovoked attacks from Fulani herdsmen in Yoruba land, but also to assist the Federal Government in completely neutralising the Boko Haram insurgency. In this regard, Oba Ajijola-Anabi said he would liaise with the Agbekoya Association and other conventional security agencies to ensure that there is no hiding place for criminals.

As noted by Oluseye Ojo in his report entitled ‘Yoruba hunters Vow to Stop Fulani Herdsmen Attack (vide Daily Sun, Wednesday, May 29, 2019, p.43), Oba Ajijola-Anabi ‘enjoined President Muhammadu Buhari to incorporate hunters into the fight against insurgency in the North East… The president should just try us and see if we can help.’ More importantly, the report further has it that ‘Nigerians, including the army, will see how much we can do. There are still charms that can render weapons of war useless and we will be catching them (Boko Haram) like chickens.’

Earlier in July 2018, the hunters in the South West chapter of the association had asked the national leadership of the Fulani herdsmen to call their colleagues in the zone to order so as to avoid blood shell and strengthen the cordial relationship that existed between them and the Yoruba (vide Naija News Daily, July 11, 2018). In this regard, how is the battle or the war going to be fought? Oba Ajijola-Anabi declared as follows: ‘I want to tell you that we have charms that can demobilise armoured tanks and rifles of all kinds. Their weapons will just not work. When invited, we can also give the soldiers some protection that would not make them vulnerable to attacks’ (vide Spynigeria.ng, home metro, December 6, 2018).

It is in light of this self-acclaimed capacity and capability that Oba Ajijola-Anabi has called on President Buhari to consider including the South West hunters in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgents. But Government does not appear to have taken this offer of assistance seriously. If the offer had been reckoned with in July or December 2018, there would not have been any need for Oba Ajijola-Anabi to be making fresh offer of assistance in May 2019.

Without doubt, at the critical stage of insecurity in Nigeria of today, every citizen cannot but be interested in any offer of assistance for various reasons. Insecurity has become recidivist under the administration of PMB. Effective containment of terrorism in international relations has also failed. Consequently, any offer of assistance in the area of containment of use of terror as a method of political negotiation cannot be set aside with mere kid gloves. And true also, no one can rightly quarrel with the self-acclaimed capacity of the Soludero Hunters Association.

From the name of the association, ‘Soludero,’ is a Yoruba word which simply means ‘make the town or community easy to live in.’ The word is therefore an objective and a means unto itself. Does the hunters’ association really have the power to engage in modern warfare? Who has attempted to experiment this black man’s native intelligence or technology? In fact, was there not the time former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, advised Nigerian people to consider using black man’s juju (African magic or charms) in the fight against apartheid South Africa? Has it been used? If not, why has it not been used?

If we consider Obasanjo’s suggestion along with the offer of assistance by the hunters, it means that there is a local technology, often referred to as ‘black power, that exists and that is yet to be taken advantage of. We do believe that black power exists but the extent of its potency in the face of modern weapons of war remains another critical issue for determination. But since Oba Ajijola-Anabi has asked to be given a trial, and as it is popularly said that ‘a trial will convince you,’ there is absolutely nothing wrong in considering the assistance offered by the hunters association of Nigeria. There is a desperate need for a permanent solution to the problem of boko haramism.

The request for a trial is what can be referred to as the level of hypothesis in academic research settings, which can still be subject to further enquiries or experimentation. In the context of the native black power to be used to defeat the Boko Haram insurgents, it is difficult to have an objective scientific approach to the understanding of the phenomenon. However, a solution must still be found to the problem.

In this regard, there is the need to have a clear understanding of the nature of Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. Put differently, insecurity in Nigeria constitutes a major recidivist problem simply because the Boko Haram saga is taken as a domestic issue, rather than as an international problem. It is taken as a political insurrection, rather than as a religious jihad. It is also being handled with much dishonesty of purpose, rather than with objectivity and honesty of purpose.

When former president of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, made it clear that there were Boko Haram and sympathisers of the Boko Haram in his government, has there been any investigation to determine the extent of the veracity of the statement? Could the statement not have had a legitimate basis if we consider that every strategic initiative by the Nigerian military had always been neutralised by the insurgents with much effectiveness and even before execution of the war plans.

And perhaps more disturbingly, anti-insecurity efforts take place in an environment of reckless indiscipline and conscious corruption. As a result, insurgents see official acts of indiscipline as an enabling factor to re-energise their efforts in attacking the government. This is why there is the need, not only to establish the truth of the matter, but to also seek to go beyond it in discussing the place of the Soludero Hunters Association in the fight against the Boko Haram and the suspected criminally-oriented Fulani herdsmen.
Explained in other words, what is the nature of the truth in Nigeria as at today? Why has it been difficult for the Government of Nigeria to go beyond the ‘technical defeat’ of the Boko Haram? Why is it that the Boko Haram still remains undefeated? And most importantly, can Nigeria win a war that is internationally designed and driven, executed by religious jihadists, as well as aided and abetted by Boko Haram sympathisers in government and acquiesced to by a docile society?

This is precisely the very environment in which the South West hunters want to engage by seeking to take the battle against insecurity to the door steps of the insurgents. In this case, why has the Government not responded to the offer? Could it be because of doubts about the capacity of the hunters? Could it also be because of the need to prevent putting the lives of several soldiers at risk by accepting an experimentation with the hunters?

Whatever is the case, let us at this juncture deal with the truth before going beyond it to addressing the possible ways forward. In doing this, it is argued here that corruption is one of the major catalysts of insecurity in Nigeria. The whole governance system is not only corrupt, it is also consciously acquiesced to, even under PMB who is said to be fighting corruption tooth and nail. Most unfortunately in this case, the truth is that PMB apparently cares little about what his entourage does, even when they are publicly accused. In the thinking of the general public, if, at the level of the presidency, corruption is condoned, what then is the big deal for the poor people of Nigeria? The current insecurity in Nigeria is therefore originated by the elite, sustained by policy inconsistencies, and promoted by the poor people. This is the hard fact that is often neglected by PMB and his administration.

Matters of Truths

First, PMB is a direct and indirect beneficiary of institutional corruption. One illustration of this point is the placement of public adverts to sing his praises on the pages of newspapers. Placement of adverts may not be seen as the problem per se, nor considered as an act of corruption on its own. What makes it corrupt, however, is when government agencies place such adverts and they use public funds to do so. It is improper to do so. It is also improper to condone it. In fact, many questions can be asked at this juncture: under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, government agencies were prohibited from placing adverts to congratulate or praise the president or public officials or anyone with public funds, is the prohibition order no longer in place? Who really is paying for the various adverts placed by some MDAs to congratulate PMB on his second inauguration?

For instance, the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), the Rector of the Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Owerri, and the South East Governors’ Forum placed a full-page advert each in the Daily Sun of Wednesday, May 29, 2019 to congratulate PMB on his historic second inauguration. Did the sponsors pay from their private pockets? What is the ultimate objective of this type of advert of praises? Is it not a foundation for corruption in the making?

In the Vanguard of the same day, the South East Governors’ Forum, comprising Nweze Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, Willy Obiano of Anambra State, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, and Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State congratulated PMB on ‘the historic occasion of his inauguration for a second term in office. The Senate spokesman and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator (Dr.) Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, dedicated his own advert to ‘transition to another democratic dispensation.’

The main difference between the two adverts is quite interesting in terms of the deductive rationale for the advert. As noted by the South East Governors’ Forum, they are confident that with the swearing in of Mr. President ‘for another term, happier days are ahead not just for South East but the whole of Nigeria.’ This advert is, at best, self-patronising, as there is no serious rationale for it beyond advertising for purposes of future gain.

On the contrary, the Senate spokesperson did not engage in praise singing but in the use of the occasion of the inauguration to seek public support and promote nationalism, as well as patriotism. In the words of Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, ‘[g]ranted it has been tough, tortuous, and mistakes made, but it has equally been enduring and eventful: as we strive and work hard to deepen and sustain the gains of our democracy. As we usher in this 9th democratic assembly, it is our hope that Nigerians will continue to join hands with the National Assembly towards installing that desired democracy where everybody will be proud of belonging to Nigeria.’

Perhaps more interestingly, he added some wordings of Nigeria’s first National Anthem, according to which ‘though tribe and tongue may differ, but in brotherhood we stand’ for the peace and unity of our dear nation where everybody can benefit from the abundant resources that God blessed us with.’ When the two adverts are compared and contrasted, there cannot be any disputing the fact that the South East Governors’ Forum was interested in political gains, hence the advert was already corruption-laden and this is what PMB has been set to receive. This is how he has become a direct beneficiary of institutional corruption. If any government agency has to place any advert, especially if it has to be with public funds, it must be de-personalised and public spirited, for it not to have a corrupt character.

Secondly, unconfirmed research enquiry has pointed to the factor of dishonesty in explaining the security unrest in some States, especially Zamfara State, where the origins of insecurity has been traced to controversy over gold mining. The intervention of government in dealing with those who kill minor miners in order to forcefully take away their belongings are now compelled to move towards Ilesha, in Osun State, where gold is also found. If armed banditry and kidnapping is increasingly becoming an issue in Ilesha axis, the quest for gold cannot be ruled out of the causal equation.

Besides, no matter how innocent and objective PMB’s policy decision and pronouncement may be, it has always sent wrong signals to the general public. For instance, many people believe, rightly or wrongly, that he is condoning the excesses of the Fulani herdsmen, simply because PMB is not seen to have taken discernible sanctions against them. In this regard, Government has directed that gun licenses be withdrawn while killings by the herdsmen are yet to abate. The interpretation of PMB’s gun decision only portrays PMB as a Fulani president rather than as a president of Nigeria. This is most unfortunate, especially that he has been accused of nepotism many times and many times he has not bothered.

During the last media chat of PMB, he blamed the Nigeria Police Force for failing the people of Nigeria in terms of the deepening of insecurity in Nigeria. On the one hand, PMB should be specially commended for this observation. It is an admittance of failure of his governance in the area of maintenance of national security. However, on the other hand, what did PMB do when the immediate past Inspector General of Police refused to be summoned by the National Assembly to explain why insecurity was becoming more problematic? The truth of the matter is that PMB unnecessarily protects ethnic chauvinism to the detriment of his declared intention to govern on the basis of fairness and justice. He protects and serves as a shield against attacks on any of his supporters.

Again, without doubt, it is only a good president that can seek to protect his supporters and collaborators. The goodness, however, can only be determined by factors of fairness and justice in a democratic setting where other stakeholders are also seeking fairness and justice in political governance, but which, most unfortunately, is not forthcoming. Another truth here is that, in spite of the swearing in of PMB, confidence in his administration, especially in terms of capacity to govern on the basis of rule of fairness and justice, has considerably declined based on published public opinion. Consequently, with this type of perception by the law abiding citizens, the insurgents and other lawless Nigerians can only be empowered to engage in anti-Nigeria activities.

Thirdly, societal indiscipline has become a noisome threat to national security and at various levels. We have always drawn attention to the reckless attitude of the Okada riders and the commercial bus drivers in Lagos State as a reference point. The questions I have always asked remain the same: why should any Okada rider be allowed to drive against the traffic? Why are they and tri-cyclists be above the law? These motor-cyclists flout traffic rules in the public glare of the police and the traffic wardens. Research enquiries have said that most of the vehicles belong to policemen and some very important people. If this is so, should ownership be a reason for non-compliance with traffic regulations? This Lagos virus has now been exported to Abuja where even the collar officials beat traffic lights to the chagrin of law abiding motorists.

The point being made with the example of road traffic indiscipline is that national insecurity can also begin at any climes of societal life. When elements of insecurity are condoned at one level, there is no way they will not also have repercussions at other levels. The same is true of unfairness and injustice. Insecurity is a resultant of perceptions of injustice and unfairness in political governance. If there are published reports that the Federal Government has been giving funds to a group of insurgents, or considering them as non-terrorists, and another group of insurgents in the same category are considered as terrorists, this cannot but be a double standard, in which case, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) or the MASSOB can only be given more legitimate room to make a case and justify its raison d’être. There is currently a growing perception of PMB as not being sincere in the political governance of Nigeria. In fact, different commentators in the social media have been asking questions as to why there are always lorry loads of northerners coming to be off-loaded in the Oniru area of Victoria Island in Lagos.

And true, who says that any northerner cannot reside in any part of Nigeria of his or her choice? Any Nigerian can decide to be domiciled in any community of his choice. However, in admitting this argument, there is also the need to address the problem of ancestral citizenship to which I have drawn attention in this column as an agent of insecurity.

Consequently, the critical point here is that the Soludero Hunters Association of Nigeria may have the local technology to render powerless any rifle or weapon of war, the insecurity situation in Nigeria is not a priori about battles and wars. They are not even about strategies of war. It is first and essentially about leadership dishonesty and mutual suspicion, indiscipline and don’t care attitudinal behaviour in the political governance of Nigeria. The challenge for the hunters is how to use their local charms to change the behavioural disposition of the policy makers, combatants and non-combatants. It is about how to first deal with the boko haramists in government but over which there appears to have been great silence since the raising of the issue by former President Goodluck Jonathan. Whatever is the case, there is nothing wrong in allowing the hunters to try their own luck. Nigerians are unnecessarily dying of poverty and insecurity in all its ramifications. Urgent end to this saga has become a desideratum.

Let us try any method that has the potential to ensure national security but without allowing the avoidable high risks and loss of valuable lives to prevail